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  1. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    Writing for the opposite sex

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by starseed, May 4, 2009.

    Has anyone else tackled this challenge? I'm on my first book now, and my main character is a guy (I'm a woman). I've found it to be challenging but fun. I feel like I get to "play a boy" for awhile. :)

    Is anyone else writing from the mind or the opposite sex, or do you know any famous authors who do this? I was looking at a lot of my books, and found that in most of them the sex of the author and the sex of the main character were the same.
     
  2. That Silly Welsh Guy
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    That Silly Welsh Guy Senior Member

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    Well, it's not quite the same for me - but certainly similar. I'm a guy whose main characters tend to be female - but these charatcers tend to often turn out ever so slighty tomboyish 'cause sport is all I know really. It's certainly is a challenge though. I tend to steer away from girly girls in my stories because I have no idea how to portray those types of characters. They'd either end up completely tomboyish once again or overly cliched which I tend to avoid. I do like cliche sometimes just not in my characters.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    hmm....the only examples i can think of off the top of my head are Bret Easton Ellis and Katherine Mansfield....oh and Jeffrey Eugenides...
    With the first two, sexuality and gender were among their main concerns in their writing so the change of gender was necessary, and its quite clear (IMO) that they are writing as "the opposite sex" in the way they describe certain things or write dialogue or things like that. I've never done it, never felt the need to...
     
  4. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have two women in my fantasy novel, and because i change characters here and there every few chaters it means i have to get into the head of these two women sometimes (One of them is involved in a rape scene too). I dont find it difficult though, challenging yes.

    I do have a tendancy to make mine, powerful women though. Well not truely powerful, but women in control (Like my misses) as thats what i like and know. I will never write a main female character that is girly and annoyly so...unless im going to kill her off in a huge awesome death scene (Alsoway because i dont like women as such, i don't know how their mind works as well). The tomboy female is an area i portray a little sometimes as well. (Easier to write for).

    I've read heaps of books hat write the different gender. But i love Peter Hamilton, all his characters are brilliant, and most are women.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the reason for that is simple... it's too hard [perhaps impossible] for anyone to write believably 'as' one of the opposite gender... unless, of course, one is a transsexual and has experienced both worlds first hand... but even there, the writer's true natural gender would tend to make itself known...
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Or a hermaphrodite, like in Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, which he dealt with expertly (won him the Pulitzer prize).
     
  7. A.J.Crowley
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    A.J.Crowley Senior Member

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    Australian author John Marsden, if you haven’t heard of him he’s well worth checking out, often writes from the female point of view. I heard him interviewed a while back and when asked why he did this he replied it easier. The reason he gave was that guys aren’t comfortable speaking about their emotions so when he writes male protagonists he always finds it a little harder to “get inside their heads” as it were.

    Just mentally flicking through some of the books he’s written, The tomorrow series (Highly recommended), checkers, So much to tell you, letters from the inside, and I’d have to say that he produces his best work when writing from point of view of the opposite gender.
     
  8. c.n.nevets
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    c.n.nevets New Member

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    I've done this in short stories quite often, because (generally) they have to be so tight and punchy that I don't need to characterize too much for gender in my suspense fiction. That said, I'm not sure I'd try it on the scale of a novel. I have some prominent female characters in novel-length WIPs, but no main chars.

    I'm not sure what your POV is, but I would think first would be pushing it, unless you just really have insights into the opposite gender. (Which a lucky few do!)

    .Nevets.
     
  9. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    Yes, that is what I'm looking to avoid.

    Really? Why so? I mean, we've all been around the opposite sex all of our lives, so why couldn't we write for them?

    Aw, but that's not true for all guys! :) PLenty of guys speak about their feelings, in fact I've always had an easier time having "deep talks" with men than with women. I have very very few female friends, I just relate to men so much more. I'm a girly girl in a lot of ways, yet I've also been told I "think like a guy" whatever that means. (usually about sex and love and things of that nature). So maybe that's why I was inclined to make my main character a guy.

    My POV is 3rd person, but with the voice being very close to the main character, pretty much inside his head.

    I will look for those, thanks!
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    because being 'around' them is a far cry from 'being' them!... if it were as easy as you'd like to think it is, there'd never have been a 'battle of the sexes' would there?... and it goes on still, so despite equality in some areas, there still IS a 'difference'...

    being around chimps, or wolves, or whales doesn't mean one can think like them... all you can do no matter how much time you spend studying and observing something that's so different from yourself is know how they act... which does not at all tell you how they think, or feel...
     
  11. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    True that. But like I said, I can relate to how most of my guy friends tell me they think and feel more than most females I know. Maybe I'm just weird. :)
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe you actually LISTEN when your guy friends talk. :)

    And lest I sound facetious, that is really what it comes down to. Listening, making an effort to understand, not as represesentatives of their gender but as individuals. Sometimes you will see behaviors you don't understand. It's worthwhile to note it, even if you don't understand now - you may understans at a later time.

    In my experience, the thought differences between individuals is greater and more interesting than the average thought differences between the sexes.
     
  13. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Statements like this only work if every member of the gender in question thinks the same way. To the best of my knowledge, they do not. There are tomboys, there are "girly men," and there is everything in between. So there's really no such thing as a wrong way to write about the opposite gender; just as there is almost no way to write a truly unique story, there is almost no way to write about a character with a personality similar to someone who hasn't already existed in the real world.

    Ultimately, your characters are not real. They are slaves who cannot defy you. If you command them to do something, or to act in a certain way, they will. And the good thing is that there is no punishment in this life or whatever awaits after for being a slave owner in this sense. They're not real, after all.

    As for my response, I do prefer to write about female characters, though never about "girly girls." My main character for my current story is a high school girl with an extremely dominant personality (meaning she HAS to be the one in charge, always). I'll admit, though, the point of view character is a guy. Mostly because I got jealous of the POV character and decided to model him after myself. :p
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I still don't see why you would write as the opposite gender if you didn't absolutely need to. The very fact of doing it calls attention to the issue of gender, and if that isn't relevant to your story then its just wasting your readers "thinking power". If you're not writing as a different gender for the purposes of exploring some specific aspect of that sex, or to explore the issues of sexuality and gender, then I contend that it is always better to write as your own sex. I'm reasonably certain that for most writers, the closer the character is to yourself, the more realistically you are able to portray them. And, assuming that realism is what you are going for, I don't see why you would want to distance yourself unneccessarily from that. And I'm with Maia here, no one knows enough abut the opposite gender to be able to become them convincingly. Yes, everyone has different ways of thinking and unique personalities and whatever, but there are particular traits inherent to each gender that the opposite gender can only possibly have a superficial notion of.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why limit yourself?

    Many stories require more than one main character, one of each gender. As a writer, you need to be able to rise to the occasion.

    Even if your story has only one MC, the gender may be significant to the story you want to tell.

    Should we always take the easier choice?
     
  16. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    Haha. I see that more in the same sex than the opposite! :)

    Yeah, this is so true. This is what I think as well. At least, this is what I have experienced from having 4 serious, long term relationships in my adult life, as well as a handful of male bff's. I don't really think there is a "male mind" and a "female mind". I'm not saying men and women are exactly the same, I mean of course there are hormonal differences and instinct/drive differences to some degree, but I mean the basics of the way a person thinks and feels emotions. I feel a lot of the "men are less emotional" idea is because a lot of men feel afraid to be in touch with their emotions because our society tends to expect them to be a certain way. This certainly doesn't apply for all guys though.

    Hmm... really? Well.. I can't say I understand your viewpoint at all, honestly. I mean, why would I only want to write about women? That doesn't make sense to me, it's so limiting. There are a lot of interesting men out there (and by "out there" I mean the fun and magical land of my imagination where my stories come from), why should they remain abandoned by me? :D

    Maybe it's just me, but the way my creative process works is I sort of just let go, and an idea/characters/plot all just come to me. I make decisions and tweak things about the details of course, but overall, the "heart" of the story just sort of appears in front of my minds eye and I KNOW I must write it. So coming up with my main character wasn't some sort of decision I sat down and thought logically about.

    It simply was. There he was, in my mind, as real as can be, waiting to be written. It's like, for me, I wouldn't even be able to just say "Oh well, this isn't working with a male MC, I'll just switch things up and write it about a girl instead." It wouldn't work, because it's HIS story, you know? Does that make sense?
     
  17. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    Haha it's weird, after reading everything you guys said I went and looked over my story again.. and I was thinking. The characters that I feel I KNOW best in my heart, are the three male characters. When I write for them, I feel I know what they are going to say, their voice feels natural, etc. The three female characters however, I have a little more difficulty with. I feel pretty comfortable with one of them, but the other two I'm still having a difficult time figuring out. Especially the one, I keep feeling like she "doesn't seem quite right" and going back and working on her basic character stuff, even after I'd already written a lot of her being a certain way.

    There are some things about "being a girl" I can relate to, yet in general I find other women so so hard to understand. I don't exactly feel like a man inside, yet I don't really feel like a girl either. I feel comfortable "being a girl" in this life, yet, on the inside, my spirit feels both male and female and yet neither at the same time.

    It's odd. And it's kinda cool how this way that I feel and this pattern of mine is actually kind of helping me write the book in a way. I do need to get the final details for my main female character nailed down and stick to them, but in a way the lack of being able to "get her" has helped me, because my main character is crazy in love with her, yet has a hard time reading her as well.

    I apologize if nothing I've said today made any sense, I've been awake for going on 40 hours now. :\
     
  18. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Haha looks like I'm on my own here...I guess I'm just not very sentimental about my characters. I don't "know" them, they don't "talk" to me, they're not "alive". They're words on apage that I manipulate as I see fit to convey a message to a reader. Maybe that's unehtical, but its how I do. But it's certainly...interesting...to see how some of you guys treat your literary creations :D
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    They are only words on a page - sort of. They aren't real people, although your experiences with real people shape them.

    Saying they are only words on paper is equivalent to the computer science saying, "It's all just ones and zeroes." It is true on one level, but real data is characterized by how it is organized, not just the individual values.

    Similarly, characters are constructed of nothing more substantial than words, but their dimension derives from how well they model real human beings. They do not have a life of their own, but they have attributes and a "rules engine", so their actions are not completely unconstrained either. If their actions are inconsistent with the established character, according to what te reader knows of real human behavior, the character becomes cartoonish.

    However, surprises ARE a part of real personalities.

    I realize this has wandered away from the gender question, but I really do believe that is only one aspect you need to pay attention to in your people-watching, err, umm, character research.
     
  20. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

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    I try to make my writing appealing to both genders. Its pretty fun to let out my girly-boy side, but at the same time still try to keep my macho in check. :)
     
  21. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    You've obviously never read Memoirs of a Geisha or anything by Charles de Lint. He writes female characters better than males. Anyone who is empathetic and open-minded can do it with effort. de Lint has been praised by women for his ability to write women.

    If this were true that it is impossible to write a character who doesn't think like you do, regardless of gender, people would not be able to write stories with a MC very different from themselves, regardless of gender. A person with no mental illness/disability would not be able to write/perform a character who does have one. I'm pretty sure the difference between the mind of an autistic person and normal person is bigger than that of men and women. I've read two excellent examples of first-person narratives with an autistic MC. It is done all the time. It's the job of writers and actors to get into the minds of characters, no matter how similar or different than that character is from themselves.
     
  22. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    nancy farmer, the land of the silver apples. the MC is a boy, the SC's are both boys and girls (very good book)
     
  23. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    :) It's not unethical. It's just your way of looking at it.

    They are more real to me than some of my actual friends. But yes, I am a weirdo. ;) I've always been very "off in la la land". I'm a daydreamer. I can dream up characters and then fall in love with them as if they were real people in my real life. It's a curse when it comes to spending my days at work daydreaming instead of getting things done, but it's a gift when it comes to creating characters. lol

    Yes, it's also, in my opinion, the most enjoyable thing about writing. :p

    Thanks for all the good reading suggestions! I have added a lot of new books to my reading list now.
     
  24. Emmy
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    This was exactly the point I planned to make, once I'd read through the entire thread. Memoirs was incredible...and it gave me the confidence to write my story through a man's POV.

    So you aren't the only one. I'm a girly girl, and I'm writing a story from a guy's POV.
     
  25. starseed
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    starseed Contributing Member

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    :) Cool! Good luck with your story!

    When I get done with this chapter I will probably post some of it for review in the Novels section. Hopefully some of you guys can look at the dialogue and see if it seems "too girly".
     

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